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Unliked – Is Social Media Bullying Of School Staff On The Rise?

Survey by The Key finds that nearly one in 10 school leaders have previously been victims of cyberbullying

  • Unliked – Is Social Media Bullying Of School Staff On The Rise?

Schools have long been aware of how bullying and harassment via social media can harm pupils – but what about school leaders and staff?

According to a national survey of 1,188 school leaders carried out by The Key, 56% have had to contend with negative or offensive comments, including personal insults, grievances and potentially libellous remarks, posted on social media by parents within the past year, 15% have been a victim of cyberbullying at some point in their career.

The problem seemed more pronounced in primary schools, with 59% of primary leaders reporting having had to deal with negative social media posts and comments compared with 46% of secondary leaders. The Key quotes one primary headteacher as saying: “Social media is a massive concern for schools to deal with. Negative and inaccurate comments that would never be said face-to-face are often posted by parents online, and most of the time the school is unaware of these.”

The picture wasn’t entirely negative, however. The Key goes on to quote another headteacher, who in contrast remarked that, ““Social media has been an overwhelming force for good in our school. We use it to broadcast all the exciting activities that are going on in a moment-to-moment way - meaning parents are able to connect with school activities far more easily than in the past.

“Parents think that it has contributed to a feel-good atmosphere throughout the school and report that they enjoy having something they can ask children about when they get home.”

The Key’s CEO, Fergal Roche, said of the findings: “Social media is becoming a more and more prominent and influential part of everyday life, and schools are having to adapt quickly to the many new challenges, and opportunities, it brings.Inaccurate or offensive comments are not only upsetting for those individuals involved, but at a time when schools are increasingly having to market themselves to attract pupils and staff, such public and negative remarks can have a detrimental impact on their reputation.

“Schools take complaints seriously, and have formal processes to ensure that any issues are resolved quickly and with pupils’ interests at the fore. Nevertheless, it’s important that schools recognise the potential risks of social media. Building strong, two-way relationships with parents and carers, and having procedures that are clear and mutually beneficial, helps to ensure that everyone feels part of an inclusive community where concerns are aired constructively.”

Also commenting on the survey was parental engagement specialist and Keystone Aspire director Dr Kathryn Weston, who noted: “The best research evidence tells us that if schools engage with parents in an effective and meaningful way, the benefits for children and their learning outcomes can be substantial.

“Good two-way communication between parents and schools is fundamental to developing positive relationships. Social media can play a significant role in nurturing this relationship.”

For more information, visit thekeysupport.com or follow @TheKeySL

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